My love affair with the Goblin King

img_7026I can’t imagine sharing this moment with anyone else, so I take the kids out of school early to join me.

The theater lights go out and the first notes swell around us.

“It’s only forever.
Not long at all.
Lost and lonely.”

There are tears in my eyes as the digital owl swoops across the screen. My boy is happily shoving popcorn into his mouth and smiling. My girl grabs my hand and we share a mutual giggle of excitement.

It is a perfect moment.

The film unfolds in front of us, beautifully bright and with amazing sound, and I can’t stop smiling. It feels like sitting Christmas morning next to the twinkling tree surrounded by wrapping paper, warm coffee in my hand and the smell of freshly baking cinnamon rolls in the oven.

Yes, it feels that perfect.

To say I love the movie “Labyrinth” feels like saying I love my hands. It is a part of me in a way I find hard to explain or even separate from myself.

The story of Sarah, Jareth, Ludo and Hoggle has become as real to me as anything else. It feels more like memory than film. Like I can remember the time I fought my way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that was stolen.

I can remember it happening to me as clearly as I can remember the time I crashed my tricycle riding it down the driveway with my best friend. I can feel the black eye and the scrapped elbow, and the hands grabbing me as I plunged into the darkness of the oubliette.

I have similar connections to “Goonies,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the original of course), “Princess Bride” and “The Muppet Christmas Carol”.

All of these stories have attached themselves to me in some way and helped shape how I look at the world, myself and my place in it. I find, much like my connection to music, I use these particular films as markers in my life and ways to reconnect with parts of myself whenever I am feeling lost.

“Labyrinth” is the one I turn to the most. Thanks to the talented and beautiful David Bowie (whose death I am not ready to talk about), it works on a visual and musical level to bring me back when nothing else will.

When I was in the dense darkness of depression, there was an intensity about me which I now find hard to fully recall. There was this sense of impending death and destruction which I wore close to me and it clouded every interaction I had.

It was in this place, I really leaned on my childish love of the Goblin King to save me.

***

I’m parked in front of my children’s school sobbing in the backseat of my minivan. Again. I’m crying so hard I can barely breath.

I want to either run away or die. I feel everything I have become is wrong and there is no way out of the darkness.

The Goblin King is sitting in his castle, much older now. There are wrinkles around his eyes, but his gaze is still fierce and intense. He is alone, the goblins no longer under his control because of the choice Sarah/I made. He is wearing layers of white and grey clothes, the silver and gold amulet sitting on his slightly exposed chest, the afternoon light through the castle windows making it appear he is glowing.

He is waiting for me to decide to call upon him again, so he can offer me his gift.

“I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”

In his left hand, he twirls three crystals slowly, a soft clinking sound filling the empty throne room and echoing off the vast stonewalls. In his right hand, he gazes into the crystal and watches me sob and clutch at my stomach.

He longs to wipe the tears from my face and save me.

“Say the words,” he whispers.

He sits on the edge of his seat now.

“Give everything up love. Surrender everything about yourself and I will take complete control. You won’t have to worry anymore.”

I sit up and consider giving myself to him. The words are on my tongue and I can feel his anticipation rising with mine.

Then the sounds of the playground break through and I’m dragged back.

No.

My children.

I want to be here struggling in the real world with my kids, my family, my friends and my problems. I can’t leave them. I can’t give myself to him.

I dry my own tears from my face and stare straight ahead.

I say the words loudly and clear.

“You have no power of me.”

By the time the kids get out of school, I’ve crawled out of the complete darkness and am partially back to myself. I’ve refuted the Goblin King’s offer again to take all my burdens from me and I carry them once again.

I can’t tell you how many times this story has played out in my head as I’ve cried.

Dozens?

Hundreds?

Whenever I’m in the place of utter despair, when I feel abandoned by God and love and everything good and decent in the world, I go there.

I picture him, my Goblin King, sitting there loving me, watching me and waiting for me.

It makes the darkness somehow more bearable and makes me feel special/separate/unique.

I’ve often judged myself harshly for these fantasies and told myself I need to grow up. Life doesn’t contain the magic you pretend it does.

But it does.

I’ve seen it.

My 11-year-old son running from across the playground at school to give me a hug and tell me he loves me, in front of his friends.

My daughter glowing with confidence and joy as she plays her keyboard in the early morning light, her hair looking like spun gold.

The smell of the pine trees after it rains as I walk inside the barn to a job with my best friend I can hardly believe is real.

Watching myself grow and become the person I’ve always wanted to be in ways I could not have predicted or imagined.

Is it really such a stretch to believe the Goblin King is watching me from his castle?

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, my kingdom is as great.

You have no power of me.”

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Last year I stumbled across this at the EMP Museum in Seattle. I may have cried.

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Little Peppermint, the house fairy

You might be shocked to hear I don’t like Elf on the Shelf.

I know it is weeks past Christmas, but stay with me. It is relevant.

I don’t like the elf for lots of reasons, enough to fill an entire book and then some. I’ll spare you the long rant. Basically, I find an elf moving around the house at night creepy and I hate the pressure it puts on kids to be “good” and on parents to remember to move the damn thing.

There.

I know. Geez mom. Way to make it all about you.

According to my 8-year-old daughter, we are the ONLY family in the world to not have a spying elf and it isn’t fair. We had no less than 20 conversations revolving around the injustice of it all.

“Mom, you just don’t understand.”

Nope. I don’t.

“I will make it clothes.”

No.

“It will be fun.”

No.

“It is a good lesson to kids on being good.”

No.

She finally realized there was no budging on the issue and made her own. Only this little one isn’t an elf. She is a fairy, she is named Peppermint and she moves around the house the entire year.

THE ENTIRE YEAR.

Bam. Got you mom. Now you have to move the fairy around the house every day or I will lose faith in magic and shit like that.

At first, I played along and moved dear Peppermint all over the house. It was actually fun to pose her in the bowl of oranges on the counter, or hide her in the Christmas tree or have her hanging with baby Jesus in the nativity.

But I got busy.

And forgetful.

And tired.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a fun mom. I swear I am. I play dolls and games and tell stories.

I’m awesome.

But come on.

I have to remember to move the fairy every night.

Every. Single. Night.

It is too much.

Yesterday at breakfast, my girl tells me Peppermint hasn’t moved since a few days after Christmas.

“Mom,” she says. “Do you think Peppermint will ever move?”

I think I see tears in her eyes. Real tears, folks.

“I don’t know love,” I say and silently promise myself to move the damn fairy every day for the rest of my life. “I think she was just really tired from the holidays. I’m sure she will move soon.”

“I hope so,” she says.

Well-played daughter.

The second she is out the door, I take Peppermint out of the doll house bed and put her on the mantle holding a few candy canes.

Nailed it.

She comes home and notices right away.

“She moved!” she says.

“Yep.”

“Can’t wait to see what she will do tomorrow.”

Yep.

We leave the house an hour later for her keyboard lesson. My boy decides to stay home to work on his homework.

When we come back, Peppermint has moved again.

This time she is sitting with a doll playing a game my girl created the day before.

“Wow!” she says. “I can’t believe it.”

My boy comes over all smiles and snuggles up close to me.

“I will move Peppermint mom,” he whispers in my ear. “Just look how happy she is.”

And then my heart exploded.

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Looking for Tooth Fairy ideas? You won’t find them here

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This bowl of teeth lives in the back of my closet.

It’s gross.

Really gross.

It’s a mixture of both kids’ teeth and there is no reason for them to be there. None. Except I can’t throw them out and I have no plan.

I never really thought this whole Tooth Fairy job out.

It just sort of happened.

I can remember when my son had his first wiggly tooth.

“Shit!?! That is happening already,” I remember thinking. Guess I need to figure out what I’m going to do.

I typed “Tooth Fairy ideas” into Google (this was before Pinterest was big, if you can imagine such a time). There were some wonderful ideas that I was absolutely going to make. I remember this organizer that had little pockets that you sew and then you embroidered the tooth location and date it was lost. It rolled up and was just perfect.

I was going to be the best Tooth Fairy ever.

In a way, it’s precious how cute I was. I was all excited about baby teeth and thought it was going to be a lovely memento of their childhood I’d cherish forever.

Adorable.

While that clearly didn’t happen, I did manage to make a little pillow to hold the tooth. I sewed it by hand out of an old wool sweater and needle-felted a fairy on the front. It’s just darling. I wanted to take a picture of it to show you, but it’s lost in my son’s room.

Gone forever.

It was replaced with something he crafted out of Lego’s several teeth ago anyway.

Who needs that pillow mom took 200 hours crafting?

Luckily the first teeth are loose for some time and I got the pillow made before the first baby tooth left the mouth.

However, that is as far as my planning went.

We were at the State Fair and my boy’s tooth fell out while he was eating a hot dog.

It was such an exciting moment for him. He was so happy and kept telling everyone we met.

Me? I was screaming inside, “oh no!! I don’t have anything ready and we are going to get home late from the fair and I’m so TIRED!”

Did I just give him a quarter and call it a day?

Nope.

I put his tooth into a little jar in my closet, promising myself that I’d figure out something great before the next tooth.

Then I stayed up until well after midnight needle-felting a little cow (since he was obsessed with cows at the time). I wrote a lengthy letter to him in teensy-tiny writing about how happy I was he finally lost his first tooth. It might even have rhymed. I sprinkled glitter all over his bed.

Basically, I set the bar WAY too high folks.

Way. Too. High.

I established the expectation that the Tooth Fairy crafts you little things AND writes you heartfelt letters.

You’d think after making such a bold decision, that I’d use all my spare time to stock up on some little handcrafted gifts for when the next tooth fell out.

Nope.

Every single time I am handed a blooded stump of tooth, I’m caught off guard. As if I have no idea that they are going to keep losing teeth.

The Tooth Fairy would then stay up all night trying to pull together something amazing.

Beeswax angels.

Needle felted dragons.

Hand sewn hearts stuffed with lavender.

Ridiculously tiny letters gushing about how beautiful they are inside and out.

But lately, my boy has started losing his molars. I don’t remember losing teeth at 10-years-old, but his dentist assures me this is a real thing and he is not just yanking them out.

I actually asked that.

The first molar fell out at the most inconvenient of times. Dad was out-of-town, mom had crafted all day and he was supposed to be sleeping.

“My tooth fell out,” he screams as I finally settle in to watch an old episode of “Saturday Night Live” with a beer in hand at 9 p.m.

“I thought you were asleep,” I mutter and usher him back to bed.

I had no creative juices left. Nothing.

After scouring the house for 10 minutes, I shoved $5 in his Lego contraption, made a trail of little gems around it and called it a night.

“Mom,” my boy says crawling into bed the next morning. “The Tooth Fairy left me money and no note. That’s the first time she didn’t write me.”

He seemed disappointed and let down.

I was too.

So the next night, right at bedtime, he pulled out another tooth.

I’m not kidding.

Dad was still out-of-town and I had no cash left.

I scoured my craft supplies for something to make and I had nothing.

Not a single idea.

So I gathered up some quarters and wrote him a long note about how much the Tooth Fairy can’t believe he has grown and that it was time she gave him a “Fairy Kiss.”

I sprinkled glitter all over his face and his bed.

“Mom!” he came running in the next morning. “The Fairy left me a kiss. Look! It’s on my cheek.”

I patted myself on the back and basked in his happiness.

While this Tooth Fairy isn’t perfect, sometimes she pulls it off. There are moments of magic that I’ve been lucky enough to create for my children that I will forever cherish.

No, I am not as organized as I’d like to be.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with that mixed jar of teeth. I don’t know what I’m doing the next time a tooth falls out. I’m not even sure what we are having for dinner tonight.

But sometimes I create magic.

And that’s everything.

Letter to my boy: Tenderness, love and magic

My dearest Cooper,

cooperWhen you came up to me this morning and rubbed your head against my back you may have missed my smile. I know I was busy making breakfast and packing lunches, but I noticed your little purr and the soft way you said “mamma.” I might have barked at you to get ready, but inside my heart was melting at the way you are still so tender and loving.

You are almost 9 years old and that’s huge. All the things I read about that age tell me that you will stop believing in magic and that you are going to change this year. I have been bracing myself for it. I’m going to do my best to be OK with this change. I promise.

But right now, I want to capture the beauty that is you.

Every time I find you snuggled in your stuffy pit talking sweetly to your little friends, I can’t help but swoon. I love the little voices you use and the way you treat them all like living beings in your care.

When we were driving home from school the other day, you started gushing about how much you love stories about fairytale creatures, talking animals and magic. Your love for reading and books is amazing. You are a bit like your mom, son.

I push you to get ready every morning and you get so mad at me. You want to sit and read. You want to cuddle with your stuffed animals and me. It hurts me to literally push you away and make you get ready. It’s the way of the world, my love. We have to do our jobs and yours is to learn. But know that my heart aches for you all day.

Although it may not seem like it, I look forward to our laying in bed reading every night. I’m so filled with joy that you still let me read to you. I love sharing in new stories and love how we both say, “just one more chapter” until daddy tells us we need to go to bed.

Then the kisses. Still the same pattern of kisses you started at age three. Forehead, eyes, cheeks, chin, 8 on the nose (soon to be 9) and then the lips. I sometimes rush through them eager for my time alone, but you always grab my face and slow it down. You make me be in moment with you and I love that about you.

There is a tenderness of spirit about you that draws people to you. I see it at school. All the children in your class love you and it’s much deserved. You do not try to compete or make others feel bad. You share everything you have and rarely ask for anything. Your heart is so big.

This is where my fear for you comes in. The world is not a kind place. You have already learned a little about cancer, death and divorce. You have asked me lots of questions and I always answer them honestly. But you don’t really know about how mean, awful and horrible people can be.

There are people who are going to see your kindness as weakness. They are going to use you. I hope to teach you that these people are not worthy of your attention and love, but I know that you will have to learn some lessons the hard way.

I wish I could shield you from the pain headed your way. But I can’t. You will someday find out that magic is not real in the sense you believe it now. It will make you so sad and upset. It did me. But know this, my love, that some magic is real. I hope you can see it and believe and that the fall isn’t too hard for you.

Someday soon your going to tell me that you hate your yellow room that still has all the decorations I loving put up when I was pregnant with you. When that happens I will try, with all my might, to be gracious and understanding. I will let you design your own space and will be excited to see what you come up with.

Each day you grow more into your own person. Your starting to write now and I love reading your silly stories about Pie Trees and Super Dogs. Then you write something like this: “In my mind, sight does not exist.” Wow.

I love how you can stare for hours at catalogs of toys that you want, but still ask Santa and the Elves for a surprise. “It’s the most important part,” you say. You have such joy and unwavering faith. You never question magic. You just believe.

When you sit and read to your sister I can’t even tell you how proud that makes me. You sound out the words so patiently with her. When she yells at you, which she eventually does, you stop. I can see your hurt and sometimes you are brought to tears by her. But you know that she loves you more than anything else and your quick forgiveness and acceptance of her is one of your greatest strengths.

When I asked you what part you want in the class play, you responded, “I’m not good at that stuff, so I probably won’t get a big part.” No! I don’t want you to limit yourself. Don’t label yourself as not good at something. I tried, and failed, to convey that to you. Your anger and annoyance at me was a clear sign that I needed to back off, and I did. I just want you to know, and believe, that you can do anything you want. ANYTHING!

Yesterday I started karate class. I had been talking about it for a long time and you kept encouraging me to go. I was panicked and almost didn’t do it. I showed that vulnerability to you and told you how scared I was to try something new. You said, “Just do it mom. You will be great! I was scared at first too, but look how good I am now.”

You were right. It was so fun. Seeing how proud you were of me was BY FAR the best part. I loved how you spent time this morning showing me the correct way to pivot my foot for a round-house kick. It’s so fun to share in something you love so much. I can’t wait to go again and learn more.

I CAN do anything, just like you. We can learn and test that together my boy.

I am headed to your class today to celebrate Chanukah with you. I know you won’t acknowledge I am there, you rarely do. But that’s OK. I will observe you and love you from afar. I always will.

Rarely do I take a moment to really marvel at how wonderful it is to be your mother. Today it hit me hard and brought me to tears. You make everything I do worth it. You are my light and I am so honored to be your mom.

Love you more than anything,

Your mamma

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